Last Sunday’s sermon was taken from Jeremiah 36 and you can listen to it here.
In the days of King Jehoiakim, Jeremiah sent his scribe to read to the people in the temple a message from God. Eventually, that message was brought to the King and his response was not too different from the response many people, both inside and outside of the Church, have today…he took a knife to it. Whether people do this literally or figuratively, they cut out from their life words that they find offensive, insignificant, or of no use in their opinion.
As you read Jeremiah 36, you will notice that God sends a message to the people which might cause them to change their ways. This message is heard by some God-fearing men who then want the message read to the King. Jehoiakim, on the other hand, as he listened to the scroll being read to him, took a knife and, every so often, cut what had been read from the scroll and burned it. God told Jeremiah to have it rewritten and added more words to it-specifically condemnation of Jehoiakim.
So what can we learn from this? Here are a few lessons.
First, God is a merciful God who wants all to be saved. Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom 10:17) and so God sent His word to the people and to the king with the hope that they would repent. If you read from 2 kings 22, you will see what happened when Jehoiakim’s father Josiah had God’s word read to him; he humbled himself and made reforms to cause the people to serve God. God’s word will lead us in the ways we should go, if we will only humble ourselves, listen and do.
Second, God’s word remains. Even though Jehoiakim cut and burned the scroll with God’s word on it, God had it rewritten. 1 Peter 1:22-25 tell us that God’s word lives forever. It is relevant and is able to save us. We can try to fight against it but there is no way to change it, it will either change us…or we will break ourselves against it.
Third, people today fight against what the Scriptures say and cut out or ignore God’s word. Here are somethings they do:
- Ignore God’s plan of salvation- Mk 16:15-16, Acts 2:38, 2 Thes 1:8
- Ignore God’s plan for marriage-Eph 5:22-33
- Ignore God’s plan for assembling with the saints- Heb 10:24-25
- Ignore God’s plan for modesty- 1 tim 2:9-10
And many other passages people cut out of their life and ignore. However, God’s word is still there. Perhaps if we would spend more time reading it and doing it, our lives would be more at peace….Certainly, we would be more at peace with God.
In the Parable of the Sower, (Mt 13) the point is made about the person represented as the rocky soil that he “has not root in himself”. Because of this, he only endures for a little while. It is important for plants to set roots deep into the ground so that they will not be easily moved. For Christians, it is equally imperative that roots are sunk deep into the heart of the person who believes, so that they can endure any trials or persecutions that come their way.
I can’t help but think about those who hear the Gospel and receive it with great joy but do so not because it has particularly impressed them but because it is what their parents, friends, or perhaps dating partner wants of them. In this case, the roots will never be in themselves but in someone else. What happens if that person disappoints, dies, or breaks up with them? Will they survive as a Christian? I have seen both survivors and those who fall away.
Truly, the person’s decision to become a Christian has to be made from their own heart and not from the desire of someone else. Only in that way will the roots in the believer’s heart be able to find root in Jesus and be secure.
To help prevent the backsliding that comes from persecutions and trials, know that Jesus Himself, both suffered persecutions and told His followers that they would too. Also know that many of the faithful throughout history have suffered to serve God (Hebrews 11). But REMEMBER, that the trials and tribulations of this life are not able to be compared to the joys of Heaven…in other words, it is worth it! (Romans 8:18)
Sometimes taking a step back and getting an overview can help you see the topic more clearly. I want to do that in this post. Baptism is a topic that is sorely misunderstood, ranging from those who think that it is the very act of baptism which has the power to save, to those who think that baptism is a mere suggestion which we are free to do or not do. Of course, as is often the case, the truth lies in the middle.
It should not need to be stated but I will here (and probably repeat it), the reason why I am not writing about “FAITH” is that I don’t know anyone who has a problem with faith. Perhaps they misunderstand it but all agree that it is necessary. However, baptism does not enjoy such agreement, some thinking this and some thinking that, so I am focusing on this topic in an effort to share what I see the scriptures teach about it and challenge any who may have missed such an obviously important teaching. (And if you don’t think it could happen to us, how did the Sadducees miss the Resurrection teaching of the Old Testament? cf Mt 22:23) In stating that it is “what I see that the Scriptures teach” it should also be understood that Acts 17:11 is a good verse to keep in mind. Read the Blog and then search the Scriptures for yourself. Question, Ask, Challenge. My goal is not just instruction but to get to Heaven, if I am mistaken, please show me where and how.
First, the command.
Jesus commissioned his Apostles to go out to the world with a new message. In Matthew, He said “Make disciples” and in Mark, He said “Preach the Gospel” and in both Gospel accounts, Jesus mentioned baptism: In Matthew, he said that his disciples would be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and, in Mark, he said that the one who had faith and was baptized would be saved.
Second, the example.
So if Jesus sent His Apostles out to preach the Gospel, what was the message that they presented? If you look at Acts 2, Peter’s sermon, the message was simple: Jesus was the Messiah, you killed him, but God raised Him from the dead. Then not only did he tell them to repent and be baptized, the text says (verse 41) that those who received his word were baptized.
However, time and time again, throughout Acts, the preaching of the Gospel message and baptism of those who listened are joined together. From Acts 8, Acts 9, Acts 10, Acts 16, Acts 19 one gets the clear impression that baptism wasn’t something that was delayed or suggested, but rather commanded. Why the command? My guess is because that is part of what Jesus sent them to do. They were simply following orders. But there is more to it so let’s look at the epistles.
Third, the explanations.
It might seem amazing that someone would make a life changing commitment before knowing all the facts but sometimes, we know enough to realize that we need to make the change and later we find out all the implications. This was the case with Abraham when he left the Ur of the Chaldees; he left by faith not even knowing where he was going. Israel agreed to serve God in Exodus 19 just before receiving the commandments from God-apparently not even having time to look over the contract so to speak.
However, the explanations of baptism in which we learn more about what baptism means, what happened when we were baptized, and even what baptism does not mean and what it does not do are found in the epistles that were written to Christians and almost every epistle has some reference back to this important event. Those passages and meanings will be discussed in future posts, Lord willing.
Our duty: To follow the commandment.
Does it matter what baptism does or does not do? One certainly can understand wanting to have a better understanding of this event but what matters more than what it does or does not do is “Is it taught?” and “Is it taught like the Apostles taught it?” and “Is it taught like Jesus commanded it?”
For those who teach the alien sinner how to become justified by God and leave out all mention of baptism, you are not following the commandment. Jesus said not just to “Go make disciples”, not just to “baptize them” but to teach them to observe all that I have commanded you. Baptizing is one of those commandments. (Mt 28:18ff)
I know people who will tell someone all about Jesus but not tell a person to be baptized; I know those who say they have been a Christian since age 5 and baptized at age 18 or 25, I know people who think they can go through life and never be baptized yet still be a Christian.
Question: If I teach only Faith in Christ, Repentance from sins, Confession of Jesus as Lord and do not teach them to be baptized but DO tell them to pray a Sinner’s Prayer, am I following the commandment of Jesus? Am I following the example of the Apostles? Am I in line with the explanations given by the Apostles in their Epistles?
Please leave your thoughts and comments!
Last night at one of our local prisons, six inmates were baptized into Jesus for the remission of sins. Most of us know from Scripture that being baptized into His death is what puts us into Christ (Romans 6) and we understand the blessings that come from now being called a child of God. (Gal 3)
These inmates were taught by one or two of the other inmates. Those inmates brought them to the knowledge that they needed Jesus. My only role in this was to actually perform the baptisms, not that it takes a “preacher” but because they don’t allow inmates to baptize other inmates. (I suppose they don’t allow inmates to baptize the guards either!)
It was a sudden and unexpected letter I received from the prison chaplain asking if I could come and meet with these men and help them with being baptized. It appears that it will also lead to an opportunity to meet with these men on a regular basis (after we work out details of schedule and such) and that is also truly good news. Prayers that an effective door of teaching will be open here would be appreciated, not just for me but for those who are also already doing the teaching from the inside.
Neglecting one’s salvation would quite easily rank as one of the poorest decisions a person could make in this life. And even that simply sentence may rank among the biggest understatements in the history of blogging.As the saying goes, “Even an atheist does not want to go to Hell!”
Yesterday, we looked at four types of negligence: Passing by, ignoring, forgetting, and being careless. It is highly unlikely that those who consider themselves to be Christians would really “pass by” or “ignore” (at least not completely) their salvation. Those two items would belong to those who will not study to find out the truth for themselves. Much could be written on that topic but in this post, I want to talk about things that cause a Christian to neglect their salvation. This neglect will most likely come through forgetting and being careless.
Paul said: No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. (2Ti 2:4)
Christians need to remember that they died…to sin, to this world and to the rat race that so many get caught up in.
Sin is always lurking.
Just because we resist Satan once or twice and he flees from us (as the Scripture says), does not mean that he never comes back again! Even with Jesus, after all the temptations were completed in the dessert, Luke records that the devil left him until “an opportune time.” When we get caught up in sin, whatever form that may take, we become entangled and our salvation can become neglected!
Committing a Sin and living in sin are two different things but neither is what we are supposed to do. We need to be on guard so as not to sin more just so grace can abound. When we do that, we truly treat our salvation with carelessness and as if it has no value. (Romans 6)
The world is always pulling.
Our old friends, if we grew up in the world, wonder at why we do not carry on with them like we used to. The world’s morals and values are constantly being pushed on us and worse yet, they are quoting Scriptures at us to bolster their point. “Jesus said to love” may be a true statement but Jesus also said to “Love God first” was the great commandment. Besides, love does require pointing out the sins so that people can change.
The rat race doesn’t end.
Have you ever noticed that in a rat race, that the cheese is not truly the end? Nope! Those poor rats are pulled out of the maze and sent back in to do it again. Then they change the maze or move the cheese!
Lack of contentment with what we have is a big cause for us to neglect our salvation. We take more overtime or second jobs to pay for things we want. We fail to realize that food, clothing, and shelter is enough when coupled with God’s blessings. It isn’t that you are wrong just for working more but the reason for the work is often ‘wants’ not ‘needs’. Then you get so busy fulfilling wants that you get careless with and forget what is truly important.
While it might seem our duty to buy more and get more and upgrade more and travel more, that theme is from the world and not God. Huxley’s Brave new world and even our Newscasts would be appalled at my next statement: Buy less, be content with less!
You will not get all of it anyway and you will find at the end, that the maze gets changed, the cheese moved, or they now have new and improved cheese with a bolder taste (but you need to run the race again to get it).
One of my readers, Eugene, cited a good Scripture on yesterday’s post. (You can read Eugene’s blog here!)
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Col 3:1-3 ESV)
What we should do is “seek” and “set our minds” on those things that are above. If we do that, we will not be in danger of neglecting our salvation.
These three things, sin, the world’s pull, and the rat race are more general things that lead us to be negligent with our salvation.
Question: What are some specific things in your life that are innocent enough in and of themselves, but that you take to an extreme? Do those things cause you to neglect your salvation?
Photo Credit: antwerpenR
How much clearer could Peter be when he said:
For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2Pe 1:8-11)
There are seven things that we need to add to our faith in order to be fruitful and make it to Heaven.
As we finish our look at these characteristics, we have spent many weeks writing about these qualities. This post will review them as we finish this line of study. Should you wish to read posts about these individual qualities, you can do a search on the characteristic you want in the search box to the right.
Lest we forget what they are, I will list them and a brief description:
Virtue (or moral excellence)
This is the characterisitc that you need to have which says “I will do what God wants me to do, regardless of the costs.” This quality is needed because we don’t yet know everything God will require of us or that Satan will tempt us with. When Joseph fled from Potipher’s wife, he showed great virtue and it did cost him.
It makes sense that the faith we start with is not the faith we will die with if we live any length of time. Learning more about what God wants and meditating on His word will give us that knowledge to live more holy lives.
A wonderful quality that more of us should practice. We should note that this is not “other” control. Once we have a little knowledge, it is easy to look at others and judge where they are. However, we need to focus first on our self, then we can see clearly to pull the mote from our brother’s eye.
Without this, we may quit. To be able to beat a temptation once may be easy but to endure the temptations of Satan, or to bear with those who are still learning, or to continue to grow even when we think we have attained all we need to do requires dedication to the race. When you retire from your work, you do not retire from God.
This quality says, what I do, I do with God in mind. In being pious, I show the attributes that God would show were He on Earth. It is something to be trained in, is not to be used superficially for gain but to be coupled with contentment so that I can gain even more…in the next life.
I owe it to my brothers to have a warm feeling for them, to desire to be around them more than the world. There is a companionship in the church that needs to be fostered to encourage others and allow yourself to be encouraged.
This is a duty bound love that does what is in the best interest of the person loved. Sometimes it is your neighbor, sometimes it is God, sometimes (occasionally) it is your self. You cannot love God unless you love your fellow man. This is the love that we are commanded to show to enemies because when we were enemies of God, He showed it to us!
This is not some check list that you can just mark off and say “I got that covered”, it is not that simple. You cannot simply do godliness for a day and think you have it. You cannot be steadfast for a week and mark it off. These are qualities that you ADD to your faith and CONTINUE IN and GROW IN.
Notice Peter didn’t say if you ‘have them’ but if you have them and they “abound.” That is, if you grow in them. And if you grow in them, you will not be “unfruitful”, you will not “stumble” and you will be “abundantly” supplied entrance into the Kingdom of Jesus.
Those that do not, are soooooooooo short sighted (blind) that they can’t see past this world. In other words, unlike the great men of faith, they do not look for a heavenly home, it is not real to them. They also have forgotten that they were cleansed from their sin. Imagine someone barely saved from death by a liver transplant. Grateful, they stop drinking which caused the problem in the first place. Then they forget that they were barely saved and go back to the bottle and ruin the new liver. Such are those who were saved and do not grow in these virtues.
Peter made a point of reminding his readers about these qualities. It wasn’t that they didn’t know these things but he wanted them always to be able to remember them, even after his death. Let’s work to add these qualities to our faith so that we may be fruitful for Jesus.
Brotherly affection is one of those qualities that Peter tells us that we need to add to our faith. He promises to us that if we have it and increase in it that we will receive a valuable benefit. First, we will not be ineffective as a Christian; second, we will not be unfruitful as a Christian; third, we will not stumble and finally, we will be given entrance into the Kingdom of Jesus. But what happens when we do not have brotherly affection? To answer this question, let’s look at the Prodigal son’s brother.
After the Prodigal had returned and his father was celebrating this return, the brother came in from the field and found out “there was a party goin’ on.”
But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'” (Luk 15:28-32 ESV)
He had no compassion on his brother.
Really, one might say that he didn’t even consider him to be his brother. “This son of yours” is a clear indication that he had separated from his the prodigal. Rather than rejoicing at the return of this prodigal to his good senses and to the family, the brother is more concerned about the party that is being thrown. Perhaps he considered it a further waste of his inheritance since the prodigal had wasted his portion.
He was short sighted.
He focused on the service he had given his father and yet, never had received such a party for his friends as his father was throwing for the prodigal. I rather doubt that this is completely true. In my own life, I know that I have exaggerated in order to justify my position. The use of the word “never” is key. What’s this? The father who is so generous to the returning prodigal NEVER(?) did anything nice for his son, never (?) threw a party for him, never(?) lavished him with gifts or some other present?
It may also be that the son had never asked. The father indicates that the son has access to what the Father had, could it be that he never asked for a party?
He bore a grudge.
There are many reasons why he could be upset with the Prodigal brother but he directs his anger at the party and the father. Why are you being so nice to him? In the parable, we see the Prodigal returning to the father to ask forgiveness. Perhaps this Prodigal needed to do the same thing to his brother. It was, after all, a sudden departure that robbed the family not just of physical wealth but relational wealth. However, the brother would rather hold the grudge than confront his Prodigal brother (who, if I read the story correctly, would have begged forgiveness). This grudge would keep them separated longer now and it was not longer the Prodigal who was missing but the brother who is leaving (not physically but relationally).
He may have been envious.
In many contexts I have heard a sentiment expressed that says in so many words: If I had not been a Christian, I would have been able to enjoy this or that pleasure of life before getting saved. That is an expression of envy and unworthy of those who are called by the name of Christ. We envy those who are enjoying the pleasures of this world because we see ourselves restricted by the “rules” of being God’s sons. Would we also envy their fate if they do not return?
The Prodigal’s brother was rich but he was really poor. Until his brother’s return, this poverty was not so easily noticed. Perhaps his father had realized this, maybe the father felt like he had lost two sons the day the prodigal left.
The application of this should be easy: If we are the brother who is still at home in the household of God, let us not fail to realize and recognize the benefits we have by serving our Heavenly Father. Let us also realize that we have a brother (or sister) who has left and needs to be welcomed back with open arms if they return. We should not envy them, bear a grudge, or feel that their return will in any way diminish our reward.
Question: Are there other undesirable qualities that the brother showed in this parable?
photo credit: Martin Young 42
What makes a seed grow? From my school days I know that there are a few things needed. Good soil, sunshine, water, and protection from predators (No, not the ones with clocking devices and ugly faces running through the forest chasing or being chased by Arnold Schwarzenegger…these predators are squirrels and cute things like them). But WHAT makes the seed grow? Does it matter?
Mar 4:26-29 And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, (27) and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. (28) For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. (29) But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
In this parable, some truth is seen regarding the farmer. He doesn’t know how the seed grows, but when it is ready to be harvested, he doesn’t sit around wondering about it, he goes out and harvests. It is not a question that needs to be answered because it is a moot point. If you plant the seed in the appropriated soil, water it, let sun get to it, and protect it, it will grow. How? who cares?
It may be tempting to focus on the harvesting as if that is the big deal and….it is. In fact, the work done up to that point is important. Leave a step out and the crop can fail. However, without the seed, without that one small speck to plant into the ground, there will not be a harvest.
In many of the parables of Jesus, the seed is the word of God. Other things can impact how that word is received and if it will grow but until the seed is spread across the soil, you don’t know what will happen or if any thing will happen.One thing is for sure, we are not the cause of the growth. We might plant, we may water but God gives the increase.
1Co 3:5-7 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? (6) I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. (7) So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.
Keeping count on conversions is not the thing to do. We ought to keep count on how much seed is spread. Of course, it needs to be the right kind of seed. There are those who go out and spread the seed of their denomination but not of the Bible. They talk about Jesus but they don’t follow Jesus’ teachings. They say they preach the Gospel but they preach a message the scriptures didn’t authorize. Some do it with deliberateness, others do it because that is how they were taught (They, themselves, forgetting (or never knowing) that the first rule of Bible study is to study the Bible not the church literature or commentaries)
Our job is to spread the message that Jesus proclaimed. In the Gospels, Jesus send out his disciples with a commission. (See Mt 28) and in Acts, we see those disciples fulfilling that mission. In the epistles, we see the Apostles informing the saved of more things they need to know to be Holy but the saving message had already been preached to them.
Go. Plant. Water. But never for a moment think that you gave the increase or caused the seed to grow. That is God’s job and He does it well.